Steve Hiltner: Veblen’s Princeton Legacy on Exhibit

VeblenCoincident with my upcoming presentation on the Veblens and the Veblen House, at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival on Feb. 10 at 11 a.m., the archive room at the Institute for Advanced Study is currently hosting an exhibit on mathematician and visionary Oswald Veblen. There is, according to past director of the Institute, Peter Goddard, an increasing appreciation of Veblen’s legacy.

Most people associate the Veblen name with Oswald’s uncle Thorstein, the famous economist and social critic, who coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption”. Mathematicians are aware of the Oswald Veblen Prize in geometry, awarded every three years. There is, however, no prominent book, phrase, building or nature preserve that bear’s Oswald Veblen’s name, and yet his influence and vision left a lasting mark in Princeton and beyond, across a broad range of pursuits. Click to continue

One Comment

  1. A wonderful work of local history; thanks, Mr. Hiltner and the Institute, for making it happen. How sad the Veblens would be to know that the last major piece of open space on their beloved Mount Lucas–the 95 acres owned by Bryce Thompson, across the road from the massive Westerly Road Church construction site–may soon be covered with McMansions. That hilltop parcel could be the keystone in a bike trail/walking paths/greenspace complex that would unite Herrontown Woods, Autumn Hill, the Sewer District lands and the Towpath…if only Princeton, or some generous private entity or nonprofit, will make it happen. In the 2011 survey of Princeton residents, such a trail system, plus more greenspace, was the #1 desire; it would transform Princeton, especially if connected to the Mountain Lakes green space, Montgomery’s nearby Van Horne Park, and even the Lawrence/Hopewell trail beyond. The Veblen vision can be fulfilled or destroyed; I hope that Mayor Lempert will have the vision and courage to make it happen.

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